Lockdowns see November sales slow

Total retail sales growth slowed to 0.9 per cent in November, according to figures published by The British Retail Consortium (BRC).

Sales were below the three-month average growth of 3.9 per cent and above the 12 month average decline of 0.3 per cent.

UK retail sales increased 7.7 per cent on a like-for-like basis from November 2019, when they had decreased 1.3 per cent from the preceding year.

Over the three months to November, in-store sales of non-food items declined 18.6 per cent on a total and 10.8 per cent on a like-for-like basis.

This is better than the 12-month total average decline of 21.7 per cent.

For November, the like-for-like excluding temporarily closed stores remained in decline.

Online non-food sales increased by 47.2 per cent in November, against a growth of 0.3 per cent in November 2019.

“November saw the brakes put on the sales growth that had been seen over the previous three months,” said Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive, British Retail Consortium. “In-store non-food sales saw a significant decline as a result of the lockdown in England, however some retailers were able offset a proportion of lost sales through greater online and click-and-collect sales, ensuring they could still serve their customers.

“Extended discount periods helped spread demand and offered customers great deals on gifts including the latest gaming consoles, other electronics and home accessories.

“However, the disparity between online and in-store non-food sales widened, with the highest online penetration rate since May. Non-food stores once again experienced double-digit decline as tighter restrictions were bought in across England.”

Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG said: “Despite the on-going unprecedented environment, UK retail fought hard during November to win growth on last year. It was a tale of two channels however, as lockdown resulted in a dismal performance for high street retailers, whilst online sales rose by impressive double figures across most categories.

He explained: “The gap between winners and losers continues with home focused items such as technology and household appliances putting in a very strong performance, whilst fashion sales fell away at a significant level. The evolution of Black Friday from a day to now spanning multiple weeks, has further distorted trading patterns and will have likely brought Christmas purchases forward. Despite this, high street retailers will still be hoping that consumers will be pounding the pavements in the coming weeks as they battle hard to make up for lost ground in this crucial time.

“The arrival of a vaccine programme will help to boost consumer confidence, but conditions are likely to remain challenging for the immediate future and retailers will need to fight hard in the January sales for every penny in consumers’ pockets.”

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